Can You Make Stuff On The Spot? (Why it matters if you're single and dating...)

When I was an undergrad majoring in communications & theater, I took an improv class. Most people probably thought improv was silly -- just playing around and acting goofy. They couldn't have been more wrong. 

I've used improvisational skills in a myriad of ways in the nearly 30 years since then: first dates, job interviews, parenting, sales and customer service, classroom teaching, and more. The art of being able to think on your feet is invaluable and indispensable in both the professional and personal arenas. 

I often work with single men and women who report that being shy and introverted or having social anxiety makes it difficult for them to enter social situations with confidence and strike up conversations. Heck, sometimes it's hard even for an extrovert to walk into an unfamiliar situation and break the ice with new people! I always encourage these clients to hustle their butts into an improv class -- and I'm happy to have an improv studio to recommend: Flying Pig Improv.   

Recently, I met with owner Jessie Gray to discuss how she could help my clients to think faster on their feet and be more comfortable with unfamiliar situations. We decided to co-host a class together. I then invited Jessie to be my guest columnist this week and I really love her energy and enthusiasm for her craft. I think you will too -- see what she has to say below: 

When I tell folks that I teach improv, I generally get one of two reactions: “Oh, I'd love to try that” or “Oh, I could never do that.” Making stuff up on the spot either feels thrilling or scary depending on their impression of what improvisation is and their tolerance for risk. But I know something that those latter responders do not yet know: Improv is a craft. It's learnable! We practice and build skills that become habits and those habits make it possible to play in the moment. And THAT is fun!

I also know that the skills we practice in improv have a practical purpose in real life and that when we apply them to our social life, that is fun, too.

The basic tenets of improv:

  • notice everything

  • listen with our hearts and intuition

  • respond only to what is happening in the moment

  • say "yes" and then add something relevant

We need these skills in our day-to-day interactions with other people because it will create rapport and because our conversation partners deserve it. And maybe most importantly, it makes us more engaged and satisfied with our own lives whether at home or at work or ... on a date.  

Here's an example of a typical slice of conversation:

She says: “I have one older sister.” (She rolls her eyes,)

You say: “I have two brothers who live here in town.”

Here's the same slice of conversation using some improv skills:

She says: “I have one older sister.” (She rolls her eyes,)